Engine of change

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Aero-engine maker uses planning system to boost performance.

Walter Engines, a division of GE Aviation, has boosted its throughput by 45 per cent and improved delivery performance by 80 per cent after implementing i2 Technologies’ advanced planning scheduling software.

The company, which is based in the Czech Republic, manufactures small turboprop engines and components for other engine producers. Products are highly complex and require a large number of parts, the majority of which have long production lead times.

Walter was established in 1911 and originally dealt with the production of motorcycles and motor tricycles. In 1923 it developed its first aircraft engine and in 1975 produced the turboprop engine M601. The company became Walter Engines in 2005 and a member of the GE Aviation family in 2008. To date it has produced more than 37,000 engines.

The M601 turboprop engine is still Walter Engines’ main product today, but it also now If you keep doing things the same way you always did do not expect different results.carries out subcontracted work on small and medium machined parts and special processes.

To boost its offering the manufacturer was keen to solve the issue of long lead times on manufacturing orders, slow flow of operations through workshops, problems with production arrangements and issues with capacity, which in many cases it says were a result of bad production management.

The company found its legacy ERP and MRP systems limiting, making capacity planning almost impossible. Its operations and material availability were not synchronised and it was only able to perform backward planning, resulting in inaccurate work queues and expected delivery dates.

It also meant materials were not being managed precisely, creating unnecessarily high inventories and low throughput rates.

This created a distrust of data and planning, which made it hard for the company to keep existing customers and very difficult for it to acquire new business as it was in a weak position to negotiate contracts as it was unable to guarantee delivery times.

Following a management buyout in 2006, the company relocated to Letnany, Prague. Walter Engines had new requirements following the move and needed new approaches to meet them. Its current methods of planning and production control were not sufficient and as the economy was beginning to become more unstable it was seeing changes in demand everyday.

Petr Kocian, Walter Engines’ i2 implementation project leader, says: “If you keep doing things the same way you always did do not expect different results.”

Walter Engines decided to remedy the situation by implementing i2 Technologies’ APS system with the hope of improving processes, accelerating flow, reducing cost and increasing profit, as well as gaining the ability to acquire new customers.

It wanted to boost throughput, reduce inventory and work-in-progress levels, increase the use of machinery, decrease delivery lead times, improve data reliability when communicating with customers, increase flexibility and be able to simulate and model “what if” scenarios.

The planners themselves were looking for the ability to plan into finite capacities thanks to realistic material availability, plan to alternate resources and materials, create realistic work queues and speed up planning and calculations thanks to interactive interface and in-depth analysis.

The APS software was implemented in two phases over a six month period. The project kicked off in May 2006, with the initial model ready the following month. The first results were seen in July after which adjustments to the model took place before the project was finalised.

Since implementing the system purchasing requirements can now be accurately managed, the efficiency of resources has been improved and throughput has been boosted, while the number of production workers needed to complete jobs has dropped from 125 in 2006 to 110 in 2007.

Walter Engines has also seen an improvement in sales, with customer satisfaction levels on the increase. Delivery performance has been significantly improved so the company is now more confident when negotiating prices with new customers as it is actually capable of completing what it says it can when it can, meaning that its customer base has increased.

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